Devon's special schools to get multi-million cash boost

PUBLISHED: 12:26 01 August 2008 | UPDATED: 09:25 10 June 2010

Friday, August 1 - DEVON'S special schools are to get a £3 million cash boost over the next three years.

DEVON'S special schools are to get a £3 million cash boost over the next three years.

It follows a high-level review of the special schools' budgets.

Some special schools warned they would have financial difficulties this year after a change in the way they were funded.

This was designed to give them more support as the county council asks them to take on extra work.

But the review - which incorporated special school heads and county finance chiefs - recommended an extra £1 million a year in funding on top of the changes that have already been made.

Devon Education Forum, which consists of county heads, governors and parent representatives, has already agreed that £1.5 million should come from the overall schools' budget over the next three years.

Now Devon's executive committee has agreed to match the £1.5 million from county council funds.

The strategy has the backing of the children and young people's services overview and scrutiny committee whose members welcomed the recommendations and said they were pleased extra resources were being found.

The chair of the Devon Special Heads' Association and head of Ratcliffe Special School in Dawlish, Cherie White, said: "These are acceptable recommendations and we are more than happy with the support we have had from the local authority."

Devon County Council deputy leader, John Smith, who is the lead councillor for children's services, said: "I am delighted that we have been able to reach such a swift solution to this problem.

"We changed the funding system this year in order to give our special schools more money because we recognise the vital part they play in Devon's ability to educate all our children.

"We're asking them to do more work - for example by helping special needs pupils in our mainstream schools - and we're asking them to take on children with ever greater needs.

"We're also asking them to cater for more children because we want to educate more special needs pupils in our own schools - nearer their homes - rather than using expensive private provision.

"However when they came to set their budgets for this current financial year it was recognised that some were going to have difficulties.

"We immediately set up the review and I am glad we were able to reach a very positive solution.

"We were never talking about an actual overspend. The deficits were projected for this financial year if nothing was done and we have acted swiftly to resolve the problem.

"You also have to set this in the context of the unfair way that all schools in Devon are funded by the Government.

"We have slipped from 144th to 146th out of 149 education authorities this year. That means every pupil is funded at around £350 less than the national average.

"That's less money than all our neighbours in Cornwall, Plymouth, Torbay, Somerset and Dorset. And in an average school of 1,000 pupils that £350 pounds a pupil equates to 10 teachers.

"Yet staff wages account for four fifths of the cost of running a school and they're the same wherever you are in the country and heating, lighting, books and equipment also cost roughly the same.

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